Monday, December 28, 2009

Water Pollution Of A River And The Clean Up 33 Years Later

by Donnalynn Polito

In checking out the news today, I saw that  the Ottawa River in Ohio is finally being cleaned up of its pollution.  What, I wondered, was in the Ottawa River that made its waters polluted and why now to clean it up.  A further read into the article produced some toxic chemical names that we all have heard of before.

Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCPs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, called PAHs; and heavy metals.

What struck me was that PCPs were outlawed in 1976.  Isn’t the year 2009?  You mean to tell me it has taken 33 years before this chemical is getting cleaned up from a river in Ohio?

In Toledo, Ohio, the Ottawa River will have 260,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment removed in an effort to reduce the impacts on human health and the environment.

And where does all the 260,000 cubic yards of contamination go?  To the landfill where, I suspect, it can seep for another 30-some years.  Well, funny you should mention it. 

The article goes on to state that about 5% of the contaminated sediment is too dangerous to put into landfill, so it will go to specialized licensed landfills.

While the city and its representatives are really happy about this step forward, it took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s lawsuit against the City of Toledo and 13 businesses before any action was taken.

So what are these chemicals and how do they get into the water?

Let’s start with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.  PCBs were widely used in many industrial applications.  They were used as coolants, as the oil in transformers, as plasticizers in paint and cement, in flame retardants, lubricating oils, sealants such as caulking in schools and commercial buildings, adhesives in floor finishes, on and on.   It seems like PCBs were used everywhere.

PCBs are fairly inert chemically and are very stable compounds.  They do not degrade very easily.  Their toxicity, however, was recognized as early as 1937.  It took until the 1970s for PCBs to be outlawed.

Because they were used in so many applications and because they do not degrade very easily, PCBs still remain in the environment and are a concern to everyone.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs are one of the most widespread organic pollutants.  PAHs are found in fossil fuels and tar deposits.  They are also produced as byproducts to burning fuel as hydrocarbon emissions.

Because of their molecular structure, different types of combustion produce different types of pollutants or mixtures of PAHs.   PAHs are produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon contained in fuels like wood, coal, diesel, fat, tobacco or incense.  So, coal burning would produce a different type of PAH from a motor fuel combustion. 

Heavy metals are anybody’s guess and the term is often called meaningless or misleading since a large variation of heavy metals exist in the environment and some are actually required for human health.   As trace elements, humans need heavy metals for our metabolic systems. 

Our concern is with the heavy metals that don’t have any benefit to the environment.  In fact, over time, the accumulation of these heavy metals become toxic and can cause considerable damage to living organisms.

The pollution from heavy metals can come from many sources.  A common source is the smelting of copper, the preparation of nuclear fuels, electroplating, and the mining and refining of metals. 

Heavy metals accumulate over time, lay dormant and do not decay.  This makes clean up particularly difficult and worrisome.

Lakes Don’t Do Much Better and Are In Poor Health

In our natural and man-made lakes, we have similar issues.  Mercury in game fish is still an issue as well as PCBs  which are also found in lakes. 

Nitrogen and phosphorous are found at high levels in many lakes.  Excess amounts of these elements produce algae blooms, weed growth, reduce water clarity and make other lake problems. 

As survey work continues to be done, we can evaluate the progress we are making in cleaning up our waters and restoring the quality of our lakes and waters.

Cleaning products are a source of significant amounts of phosphorous in our water.  Alternative cleaners are safe and effective.  Why use less phosphorus-containing compound cleaning systems when you don’t need it at all? 

Find out why wowgreen cleaning products are like no other cleaning product.  They are safe for you, your family, your pets and the water!

1 comment:

  1. At least, they finally did it ... never been late. Chin MW